Scottish Marine Protected Areas (MPA): monitoring strategy

The Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) monitoring strategy outlines an approach to MPA-related survey and monitoring to ensure that sufficient information is collected to underpin assessment and reporting obligations.

10. Who will be responsible for gathering the data?

While Marine Scotland, SNH and JNCC require information for MPA reporting and assessment purposes, future data collection will be financially constrained. It therefore is essential that the work is well coordinated, makes best possible use of existing information sources, and that collaborative delivery partnerships are developed. Increasingly, elements of monitoring are being undertaken by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in coastal environments, while information collected by marine industries and regulators can also be relevant in some instances. Improved coordination and data collation across these various sources is key to progress. Supporting current and future citizen science programmes will be essential to maximise the information available for assessment and reporting.

10.1 Enhanced coordination of marine survey and monitoring activities in Scottish waters - identifying efficiencies & maximising returns

The complex and extensive nature of the marine environment around Scotland means that marine monitoring tends to be very expensive while resources and expertise are limited. On a national level it is anticipated that a developing Scottish Marine Monitoring Coordination Group (SMMCG) will improve the cost effectiveness of future monitoring activities through better co-ordination of vessel and staff time.

Priority areas / features and the roles and responsibilities of participating organisations will be identified early. The case studies presented here and within Annex 5 provide evidence of collaborative initiatives that are currently underway. The monitoring activity outlined in the Moray Firth case study is well coordinated across a range of partner organisations and collectively provides far greater returns than the sum of the individual studies if conducted in isolation.

Case study 1 - Integrated marine mammal research and monitoring to support conservation and development in the Moray Firth

In May 2014, the Marine Mammal Monitoring Programme (MMMP) was set up in the Moray Firth to provide a strategic framework for integrating and sustaining marine mammal research and monitoring in the Moray Firth. With a principle aim of addressing both project-specific and strategic research and monitoring questions relating to the potential impacts of offshore wind farms upon key protected marine mammal populations, the programme also provides the opportunity to collect long-term data on trends in these protected populations which is beneficial to other marine stakeholders.

Funded by a consortium that includes developers (BOWL and MORL), Marine Scotland, The Crown Estate, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Programme provides a good example of how multiple organisations can co-ordinate survey and monitoring effort in the long-term, minimising or eliminating duplication of effort and maximising the scientific returns.

Other examples of best practice can be found in Annex 5.

10.2 Working with others - industry, academia and other stakeholders

Engaging stakeholders and local communities in the delivery of marine survey and monitoring (see Case studies 1 and 2) is essential to ensure the success of marine conservation action. Collaborative projects offer opportunities to build strong relationships between regulators, marine users, conservation interests and scientists. It can provide transparency as well as building trust and stakeholder confidence in marine nature conservation processes. In its simplest form this could involve:

10.2.1 Promotion of existing and development of new ‘citizen science’ projects to support the delivery of Scottish MPA monitoring requirements

A number of well-established citizen science programmes already make a significant contribution to the delivery of MPA requirements. These existing citizen initiatives should be supported where these meet the principles set out in this Strategy. New collaborations and citizen science projects should be considered to help fill gaps. Case study 2 presents a new project idea currently under development to explore the potential contribution of volunteer observers on vessels of opportunity on the west coast of Scotland which may lead to wider application in future.

Case study 2 - Collaborative, citizen science monitoring of mobile marine species on the west coast: Caledonian MacBrayne ferries as Vessels of Opportunity (VoO)

A new citizen science project is currently under development based around west of Scotland ferry routes that pass through the recently designated Inner Hebrides and the Minches SAC for harbour porpoises, an area used by a wide range of other species.

The project is being established as a partnership involving Caledonian MacBrayne, SNH, JNCC, Marine Scotland and NGOs such as BTO, RSPB, Argyll Bird Club, Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust, ORCA and WDC. The ferries, which follow regular routes will serve as Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) from which volunteer observers will undertake surveys. The volunteers will generate quantitative data on relative densities of the species as well as information on seasonal distribution patterns.

Other examples of best practice can be found in Annex 5.

Other opportunities to promote citizen science projects to support the delivery of Scottish MPA monitoring requirements will be continually explored.

10.2.2 Incorporation of stakeholder generated data into the condition assessment process to increase survey effort efficiencies

Stakeholder generated data can make a significant contribution to the delivery of MPA requirements and efforts should be made to continue to promote the use of this data. Annex 3 presents an applied example of the role of the Seasearch volunteer diver observation scheme and includes a web link to a host of other marine sightings recording schemes.

Furthermore, the principal means by which seabirds are monitored is through a partnership between the SNCBs and a range of NGOs. In Scotland the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) monitoring programme encompasses marine waterbird qualifying features in a number of estuarine protected areas such as the Solway Firth. For further details see Annex 3.

Data collected by industry can also play a key role. One of the case studies in Annex 6 illustrates the origins of the Noss Head MPA from an industry commissioned survey.

These opportunities will continue to be explored to support the delivery of Scottish MPA monitoring requirements.

10.2.3 Engaging fishermen in marine survey and monitoring

Fishermen are increasingly playing a role in monitoring and evidence gathering programmes, such as Fishing for Data. Practical operational considerations make the use of fishermen and fishing vessels a logical choice; fishing vessels are by nature well suited to survey work having sufficient deck space and lifting equipment, and fishing crew have the necessary skills and experience in dealing with technical and operational challenges of deploying and recovery of gear. They also have in-depth knowledge of fishing grounds built up over many years’ experience.

A new EMFF project which is being led by Marine Scotland will develop this capacity further by engaging fishermen in marine survey and monitoring work.



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